Why is the Common Core Hearing in Wisconsin Private?

Wisconsin_State_Capitol_Building_during_Tulip_FestivalRyan Ekvall of the Wisconsin Reporter (part of Watchdog.org) reports that two Republican lawmakers will meet in private to decide whether or not they will pursue a legislative study of the Common Core State Standards.

That the lawmakers will meet in private is perhaps apropos given the under-the-radar way in which Common Core, the set of national academic standards, is being implemented in Wisconsin…

…More than 100 anti-Common Core crusaders showed up to a legislative hearing — the only legislative hearing on Common Core to this point — in May. The session resulted in more questions than answers, but state Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson,led a budget motion to hit the pause button on Common Core…

…Knudson’s budget motion required the Department of Public Instruction to implement academic standards that meet the “college and career readiness” threshold for the state to qualify for a federal flexibility waiver. It also required DPI to keep standards adopted prior to July 1 – namely, English and math Common Core standards.

And the motion required DPI to consult with the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau to estimate the fiscal costs of both fully implementing Common Core standards and discontinuing the implementation of the Common Core. That report is due by Sept. 1. The fiscal bureau told Wisconsin Reporter it has started working on those estimates.

Knudson’s motion also requested that the Joint Legislative Council, co-chaired by Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, establish a committee to study Common Core standards and report the findings of the following by Nov. 1…

…It’s the squishy legislative lingo “request” instead of “require” that has activists concerned.

Ed Perkins of the Fox Valley Initiative, an Appleton tea party group, said he and other anti-common core activists thought they had won the opportunity to have Common Core vetted publicly in Wisconsin.

Read the rest.  Since the Common Core was implemented in private Wisconsin taxpayers deserve sunshine on all things Common Core from here on out.

Photo credit: Vijay Kumar Koulampet via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

State Senator: Mississippi Can Do Better Than Common Core

angela-hillI wrote last week about opposition to the Common Core starting to crop up in Mississippi.  Mississippi PEP, a conservative blog on Mississippi politics, posted a guest op/ed by State Senator Angela Hill (R-Picayune) who was mentioned last week.

Here’s an excerpt:

Last week, I and my fellow Senators in the Mississippi Senate Conservative Coalition found evidence of racially discriminatory policy in testing expectations arising from the adoption and implementation of Common Core State standards in Mississippi. These standards are currently being rolled out across the state by the Mississippi Department of Education.

As a group, the coalition has begun researching public policy and potential legislation that will come to the forefront in the 2014 session of the legislature. However, when the latest evidence of racial standards arose, we could not wait until January to talk about it. It was an important enough issue to Mississippi students and their parents to be shared immediately.

The more we in the Senate Conservative Coalition learn about Common Core Standards themselves and the testing, reporting, and accountability model that Mississippi will be bound to as reported in the No Child Left Behind Waiver document, the more we are troubled. Our research indicates that Common Core implementation will result in more overreach from the federal government, higher than expected costs, and potentially lower standards for all students. As legislators, those are all issues at which we must look closer. Two of Common Core’s own mathematics standards writers have publicly stated how weak Common Core’s college readiness math standards are. These concerns, in conjunction with the added racial bias the coalition has found, would do great harm to future generations of Mississippians.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

HSLDA’s Michael Farris Has a Conversation with David Coleman

David Coleman, chief architect of the Common Core ELA standards and now President of the College Board has been reaching out to conservatives and Christians to encourage them to support the Common Core.  He recently contacted Michael Farris, the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association.  Farris, in a email to his members (which my wife and I received yesterday as we’ve been members of HSLDA for years), discussed a recent phone conversation with Coleman.

Dear HSLDA members and friend,

David Coleman, president of the College Board, is the acknowledged principal leader of the effort to create and implement the Common Core. And he wanted to talk with me about Home School Legal Defense Association’s position. I was very willing. We spent about an hour together on the phone. The conversation was very cordial. Both of us showed that we truly listened to and heard the other person’s position. And both of us stood strongly on our principles and core positions. I was really glad that we talked. His initial presentation walked me through several features of the Common Core. From a pedagogical perspective, there are clearly some good ideas contained in it. When it came time for me to respond, I began with a story. I once testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee when Senator Joseph Biden was chairing a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee. Before began, Biden asked me, “I have a question for you. Is it your idea to force everyone to homeschool?” I told Senator Biden that such an idea would be anathema to HSLDA and to me. We simply want to protect the right to choose homeschooling for those who wish to pursue it.

I told Mr. Coleman that the point of the story was this: Just because you have a good idea (homeschooling in my case, Common Core in his case), it doesn’t mean that it is appropriate to force everyone in the country to follow your idea. And that is my central problem with the Common Core and all forms of centralized educational planning.

To his credit, Mr. Coleman noted that he was not acting in a vacuum. There are centralized mandates for education in play virtually everywhere. And many of them have very marginal educational utility. I agreed with his assessment of many current centralized standards.  However, my response was that the solution is not a national set of standards, but allowing each state to develop its own standards.

Competing standards from all 50 states would be likely to create more innovations–although my clear preference is to do away with all forms of centralized government standards. (I believe that public schools should form their own local standards.) When he asked me why I thought that the Common Core was worse than other standards, I indicated that one of my chief concerns was the creation of the database that would track students throughout their educational career.

His answer surprised me. He didn’t like the database all that well. It was not originally part of the Common Core, but other people have seized the opportunity to make a centralized data collection effort through the implementation of the Common Core. We talked about many other details, but these were some of the most important.

I walked away wishing that more political conversations could be like this one. Polite. Professional. Helpful. He acknowledged some good ideas that I shared, and I did the same.  I strongly oppose the Common Core for reasons I shared with him in detail. But I want to do my best to avoid demonizing those who promote it. He is motivated by what he truly thinks is best for education and for kids. I think his plans are unwise, especially when coupled with government coercion. But I will not question either his motives or his character.

We came away believing that each of us is acting in good faith. I think we make better policy decisions when we avoid the invective and simply look to the substance. That much, David Coleman and I have in common.

For Liberty,
Mike Farris

HSLDA has a website focused on the Common Core that should (in addition to this website of course) be a good resource for home educators.

Arizona Tests Costs Jump 50% Under PARCC

Just last week the Arizona Department of Education said they were not concerned with the costs associated with Common Core testing.  It’s just money, right?  The Daily Caller reports that some legislators feel differently when they saw that the tests costs will jump by 50% after PARCC released their numbers.

That spending increase is too steep for Arizona taxpayers, said Rep. Doris Goodale, a Republican and chair of the House education committee, in a statement.

“The state I don’t believe could afford that kind of accelerated cost on assessments,” she said in a statement.

Still, state officials working to implement Common Core were pleased that the cost wasn’t even higher. It is unclear whether Gov. Jan Brewer will agree and move forward with the new testing.

I think it’s pretty significant that the House Education Chair is balking at the idea.  Governor Brewer and the Department can be as supportive as they like, but the Legislature controls the purse strings.

PARCC has shored up support from the remaining states – for now.  If two more had dropped out they would have out of compliance.

Marco Rubio at Odds with Jeb Bush Over Common Core

The Shark Tank broke the news that Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) opposed the Common Core State Standards.

An excerpt:

And I am very concerned, and quite frankly opposed to any effort to try to create some sort of national curriculum standard and then try to leverage the power of the federal government’s funding to force states to adopt a certain curriculum standard. State and local levels are the best places to come up with curriculum reform, and its something the federal government shouldn’t be deeply involved in.

The Tampa Bay Times notes that this puts him at odds with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL).  They also wrote that the Florida GOP was starting to feel backlash from conservatives over the issue.

Now state GOP leaders look increasingly anxious about grass roots conservative backlash against the Common Core state standards long championed by Bush and adopted by Florida and 44 other states. Even Bush’s old protegee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, is bashing Common Core…

…Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford earlier this month called on the state to pull out of the group designing the standardized tests aligned with Common Core. Their announcement fueled speculation they may be backing away from Common Core, though they insist it’s only the testing they’re questioning, not the standards themselves.

Don’t underestimate the threat conservative opposition poses to the new accountability standards in Florida (predictable liberal opposition doesn’t bother Republicans leaders especially).

Were it not for grass roots, conservative opposition to Common Core, Tony Bennett may well have won re-election as Indiana’s education superintendent last year and wouldn’t be Florida’s education commissioner today.

It’s no accident then that Bennett has been meeting with local Republican Executive Committees across the state to discuss Common Core. In addition, five former state Republican chairmen recently wrote party officials to express their support for Common Core.

Jane Robbins of American Principles Project recently wrote a rebuttal to that letter.

Pence Pulls Indiana Out of PARCC

There were indications that this might happen, and now it’s official.  Indiana is withdrawing from PARCC by order of Governor Mike Pence, it just needs to be followed-up by a letter from Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.  Here is a press release sent out this morning:

Indianapolis – Governor Mike Pence today issued a letter to Mitchell Chester, Governing Board Chair of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), in regard to withdrawing Indiana as a member of the PARCC Governing Board, effective August 12, 2013.

On May 11, 2013, the Governor signed HEA 1427 into law, which provides for a comprehensive evaluation, and allows for reconsideration, of the Common Core State Standards that were adopted by the State Board of Education in August of 2010. The legislation also curtails the state of Indiana’s participation in a consortium such as PARCC.

“Indiana’s educational standards must be rigorous, enable college and career readiness, and align with postsecondary educational expectations to best prepare our children to compete with their national and global peers,” said Governor Pence. “Assessments must also align with these high standards. I support the legislative intent of HEA 1427 and firmly believe it is the right and responsibility of the state to make independent, fiscally responsible decisions regarding standards and assessments for the good of all the people of Indiana.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz must also submit a letter of intent to PARCC’s Governing Board Chair in order for the state’s withdrawal from the PARCC Governing Board to go into effect.

I’m not entirely certain whether this means they’ll withdraw from the tests altogether.  I would suspect so, but I don’t want to overstate what this means.

Are the Common Core Tests Worth the Price?

As many have predicted the major initial fallback we were going to see with the Common Core State Standards are with the tests and their costs.

From the Answer Sheet blog by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post, an excerpt:

On Monday, the 21-state Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, announced how much it would cost for the Core-aligned test: $29.50 a student for summative math and reading tests. More than half of the states in the consortium now pay less for their current assessment tests. When officials in Georgia heard the numbers, they pulled out of the consortium, given that they now spend a total of $12 a student for math and reading tests. (They also cited concerns about having the technology to give all the tests to all students on computer.) Oklahoma left PARCC too.

The other consortium, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, had released funding information this past spring, offering two options: $22.50 per student for summative tests and $27.30 percent for summative as well as formative and interim tests. It said that two-thirds of the consortium states now pay more for testing. However, the two consortia — funded collectively by the Obama administration with some $350 million — are not offering identical services; for example, PARCC promises to score the exams for each state, while Smarter Balanced would have states do it for themselves. There may be other costs associated with these exams, which are supposed to be ready for the 2014-15 school year.

So how good will these new exams be? It is important to remember how these tests were initially portrayed and what they will wind up delivering.

Strauss reports that these tests are not even advanced as originally touted.  She also reports that the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education said that another generation of tests will be needed.

I think we can expect that to cost even more money yet.

Are they worth the price?  I don’t think so.

Common Core Push Back in Arkansas

The Russellville Courier had coverage of Common Core pushback occurring in Arkansas:

A couple of hundred people, including legislators who are members of the House and Senate Education committees and many who are not, gathered in a large conference room behind the Capitol Monday and Tuesday. They were there to discuss — you might even say “reconsider” — the Common Core State Standards…

…Policymakers and schools in Arkansas have spent the past three years making the transition. Students in grades K-2 started using the Common Core year before last, while students in grades 3-8 did this past year. Next month, it moves to high school, and in 2014-15, students start testing.

That’s a big problem. It wasn’t until this year that the Department of Education, which has had its hands full recently, realized that few schools in Arkansas have enough internet bandwidth to administer the tests online, as they’re supposed to be done. There’s a workaround — including, if need be, paper and pencil — but Gov. Beebe has scrambled leaders in education and business to create a real solution. They say we need to increase the bandwidth for other reasons, which is true, but Common Core makes the problem urgent.

Testing is causing problems in other states, too. Arkansas is part of a consortium of states known as PARCC that is preparing the online tests. Several states — most recently Georgia on Monday — have pulled out of PARCC. It’s only been lately that Common Core has begun attracting organized opposition, which is why legislators spent most of two long days hearing testimony from both sides.

The group Arkansas Against Common Core — and some legislators — say most of the country is adopting a new set of standards that have never been pilot-tested anywhere. Moreover, they say Common Core was hatched by the NGA, CCSSO, and others in a closed-door fashion and soon will lead to more federal control of education. Through No Child Left Behind, passed under President George W. Bush’s administration, Washington already has taken an unprecedented role in schools. They say Common Core continues that momentum. President Obama’s administration, which should have stayed out of this, encouraged states to adopt the Common Core by providing Race to the Top grants.

Read the rest and be sure to check out Arkansas Against Common Core.

Arizona Is Not Concerned About Cost of Common Core Testing?

Arizona Department of EducationGeorgia pulled out of PARCC due largely because of the cost of the test.  Other states have withdrawn from their testing consortiums, but not Arizona.  Their Department of Education said that the cost is less than they anticipated.

From the Arizona Daily Independent:

The Arizona Department of Education is committed to the Common Core standards, despite wide opposition. According to the Yellow Sheet, “Leila Williams, who is overseeing the PARCC implementation for ADE, said the cost actually came in lower than expected and ADE is developing its decision proposal to submit to the governor’s office. It will be up to the State Board of Education to adopt the test. “We’re still going forward, planning on implementing it. There’s not a discussion yet to abandon it,” the Sheet reported.

Exactly how much were they planning to spend?  That is a question that Arizona taxpayers deserve an answer to.  I’m not convinced that PARCC will be able to stick to their estimate of $29.95 per student considering it can’t all be graded by machine.  This seems to be a lowball estimate.

Common Core Opposition Cropping Up in Mississippi

WJTV Channel 12 in Mississippi reports that opposition to the Common Core State Standards is starting to crop up in Mississippi.

A group of state senators is questioning Mississippi’s implementation of the Common Core education standards, even as the state’s schools move to fully implement the standards this fall.

Republican Sen. Angela Hill of Picayune says Mississippi’s decision to set different testing goals for different racial subgroups undermines the state’s adoption of the standards, along with 44 other states. Hill wants to at least freeze Mississippi’s work on Common Core, if not reverse it.

Great news.  In the comments section please leave information about any grassroots groups that you know are fighting the Common Core in Mississippi.